Russian shelling destroyed a shoe factory in Dnipro, Ukraine Russian shelling destroyed a shoe factory in Dnipro, Ukraine  (AFP or licensors)

German Bishops: 'Unacceptable to lend religious legitimacy to war'

The Bishops’ Conference of Germany calls for a common witness of all Churches for peace, and say that all attempts to give war a religious legitimacy is “completely unacceptable”.

By Lisa Zengarini

The Catholic Bishops of Germany have joined the World Council of Churches (WCC) and European Churches in urging Patriarch Kirill of Moscow to take a clear stand against the ongoing war in Ukraine.

The appeal was made on Thursday as they concluded their spring plenary assembly in Vierzehnheiligen. The crisis in Ukraine and its implications also for Christians was one of the main focuses of the meeting, which opened on 7 March with a special prayer for peace.

Unreserved condemnation

In their final statement, the German Bishops “unreservedly” condemned the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which is causing so much suffering and devastation and threatening peace in Europe and the world.

They conveyed their heartfelt solidarity with the Ukrainian people, while expressing admiration for their courage and endurance in facing their predicament.

They said that, as much as the Russian need for security on the western front may be understandable, the reasons claimed by the Russian government to justify its actions are not convincing, and they insisted on Ukraine’s right to self-determination.

Europeans under shock

The Bishops noted that not only Ukrainians, but all Europeans are "under shock", as Moscow’s military intervention “is also an attack on Europe” and its democratic values.

“Democracy, civil liberties and the rule of law, coexistence and cooperation between states based on binding and fair rules are all been fought against by those who want to deprive Ukraine of its freedom.”

This too, they say, explains why the European states and the other Western countries stand in solidarity with Ukraine and have decided to wage heavy economic sanctions on Russia.

All true religions reject war

The statement also dwells on the controversial issue of supplying weapons to Ukraine and Germany's recent pledge to ramp up military spending, which have stirred some debate in the country, also within Churches, in light of its history.

German Bishops say that arming Ukraine so it can defend itself from aggression may be legitimate, considering these extreme circumstances, but at the same warn on the risks of further escalating violence and suffering, reaffirming Church teachings against war and its commitment to non-violence.

“The horizon of peace must remain open even in times of war. All true religions reject war, which is a defeat of humanity. Those who recklessly trigger it commit a crime before God and man.”

Germany's Bishops therefore point out that all attempts to give war a religious legitimacy is “totally unacceptable”, and thank the many Orthodox and Catholic priests for “addressing their faithful in a good Christian spirit".

They say they are “particularly touched “ by the voices of many Orthodox clergy who have condemned thr conflict and have appealed for peace. At the same time they urge the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill “to speak out clearly and to distance himself from the war”.

So far, the head of Russia's largest religious body, has only generically expressed deep empathy “with everyone affected by this tragedy", without mentioning the word “war”, in line with President Vladimir Putin’s description of the aggression as a “military operation”.

On 6  March, on the occasion of the celebration of the Orthodox Forgiveness Sunday marking the beginning of Lent in Eastern Churches, Patriarch Kirill went further, saying that Russian intervention was somehow justified by the need to fight Western moral decadence and anti-Christian values threatening Russia. His remarks have caused dismay even in the Orthodox world.

German Bishops insist that the world needs a common witness by the Churches, especially in times of distress.

Listen to our report

Welcoming refugees from Ukraine

The statement further recalls the urgent need for ongoing solidarity with the Ukrainian people and with refugees fleeing war.

They remark that the the relief efforts carried out by institutions, Churches and citizens across Europe is “admirable”. However, they say more donations are urgently needed to help alleviate the hardship in Ukraine and to welcome refugees.

Ongoing prayer

The German Bishops finally appeal to all Christians in Germany to continue to pray and work for peace. “Let us ask God, who holds the fate of the world in His hands, for peace in Ukraine and in all places on Earth,” the statement concludes.

11 March 2022, 13:32